Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Goal Round Up and Debt Snowball Progress

Well, this year is drawing to a close. It's been a year with a lot of ups and downs. Some bad things happened, some good things happened, and we rounded it out with a gorgeous new baby for my oldest friend (which really puts things in perspective, let me tell you!).

I hit most of my goals for 2008. I made some good financial progress this year and feel like my debt is in a less scary and manageable place.

So, my 2008 goals were:

Get My Networth to -$28000 - DONE I'll be updating my Networth this week but I can tell you that it is below -$28,000

Get my Prosper Loan down to less than $2000 - DONE It is at $1985!

Pay off my Banana Republic Card - DONE

Pay off my American Express -DONE

Get Emergency Fund to $1000 - NOT DONE Currently it stands at $455.

I am happy that I accomplished so many of these goals. I really tried for that last one, but I just couldn't make it happen. I'm okay with not hitting that goal, because I know that I just have to work a little harder on it for next year.

Debt Snowball Progress

I have made tremendous progress on My Debt Snowball over the past few months. I paid off my American Express card right before Christmas, which was Step #4 in my Snowball. 

Here is where we are:

1. Banana Republic Card - PAID 

2. Medical Bills - PAID 

3. Car - PAID 

4. American Express - PAID

5. Prosper - Balance $1985.93 - Minimum $119.01

6. Bank of America - Balance $4701.29 - Minimum $102

7. Student Loan - Balance $23821 - No Minimum

Once my car was paid off, I was finally in a position where I was actually making more money than my bills, so I eased off and quit my extra jobs. I'm still working on making a little more money on the side, and will need to amp that up in the New Year since in February a line of passive income that has been helping me pay down my debt will come to an end. 

This Blog

I started this blog with the hopes of tracking both my personal progress, writing about finances, and keeping up with my writing skills. I'm hoping in the New Year that I will be able to get back to regular posting and start growing my readers and subscribers again. I should have a Networth update and my final list of goals for 2009 up in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I wish everyone an enjoyable New Years!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Arrival and a Thank You

Last night after 20 hours of labor my oldest friend Heather gave birth to a beautiful and perfect baby girl, weighing in at 6lb 6oz. Mommy and baby are both doing well, but I haven't opened my computer since sunday and I'm now pretty behind on a lot of things. I'm going to try and get back on schedule for tomorrow. The baby wasn't due until January 22nd so we all got thrown for a loop just a little.
Thank you for your patience and for continuing to visit my blog! I appreciate it!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Booked for the Holidays

We just had a massive holiday party and we have an out of town guest with us for a few days so I'm not really here right now. We should return to regular programming sometime this week. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Having a Late Christmas to Save Money

This is a guest post from Michael Caldwell at Use The Dollar.
If you would like to write a guest post for Distilled Rose Personal Finance, simply contact me!

Michael Caldwell is a lifelong entrepreneur who has become active in the Financial world. As he experiments and finds working methods to building wealth, he shares them with others.

For those who celebrate, Christmas is supposed to be a time of family togetherness, outward love and giving.

What it actually becomes for many of us, though, is an impoverishing end to the year.
How can we fix this?

The Problem

Any time that retailers can predict hundreds of millions of people rushing to the stores in unison- I can promise you- That is not the time to go shopping!

Even though everyone knows that it is the very worst season to shop- millions do.

But how can you avoid that? Christmas falls on the same day for everyone. It does it each and every year. But does it have to?

The Solution

Change the Day your family celebrates Christmas!

What if your family celebrated Christmas on the 28th instead of the 25th?
What if you could take advantage of the post-Christmas sales that nearly every retailer offers?!

The day is close enough to the standard Christmas day that you'll be able to take advantage of everyone elses' Christmas parties, keep the sense of the season, etc.

Aren't you losing the meaning of the Season?

For those of you who are concerned about changing the day because you want to preserve the integrity of Christ's birth, you should be celebrating much earlier.
Israeli meteorologists best guess places the real date of Christ's birth on September 29th, 5 B.C.

The Catholic writer Mario Righetti candidly admit that, "to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the 'Invincible Sun' Mithras, the conqueror of darkness" (Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, P. 67).

So if Christ wasn't born on "Christmas Day", and there's no other real motivating factor to keeping your family's Christmas on the 25th, then there are only two reasons you would celebrate on the 25th:

  1. You're a huge fan of keeping to Pagan-Fooling, Roman Tradition

  2. You enjoy spending far more money than you need to spend.

If either of those qualifications fit you- Feel free- Go ahead and continue celebrating on December 25th.

If not though- Make the smart decision and move it back a few days. Purchase your gifts during the sales- Save hundreds, if not thousands- and have a Merry Christmas!!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

6 Frugal Items You Should Get for Christmas

Are people asking you what you want for Christmas at the last minute this year? Or do you want to find something to buy for someone who you know lives a frugal lifestyle? 
Here are my six top picks for anyone faced with this question!

PUR DS-1800Z 2 Stage Water Dispenser
I adore this water filter tank. When combined with a good solid water bottle, you never really need to buy bottled water again. It can also be a great way to get out of the soda habit!

Reusable Grocery Tote Bag 6 Pack ComboI keep these in my car and use them not just for groceries, but for taking our recycling or taking things to work. These are great for the environment and buying a large pack of them is cheaper than buying them as you go shopping.

Honeywell FocusPRO 6000 Programmable ThermostatA programmable thermostat can save you a fortune in energy costs! Just have it set to stay off at night and switch on right before you get up, that way you aren't wasting energy while you are unconscious

CamelBak BPA-Free Better Water Bottle with Bite ValveHere is a fantastic water bottle to go with that Pur Water tank!

365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving MoneyTrent Hamm is a well respected personal finance blogger who has just come out with his first book! 

The Complete Tightwad GazetteThis book is one of the most highly recommended frugality books out there! 

Hopefully this list will help you with your shopping list, be it for you or for someone else!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Get a Space Heater

Many people have central heat in their homes. Often you don't get to decide what vents are open or closed, or where they are located. As an example of this, the vent that we have that works the best in our loft is the one that goes directly into our bathroom. Not the smartest of locations. 

We recently obtained a programmable thermostat for the house which we only have set to turn on in the mornings. What we do for the rest of the day is use an electric space heater to heat the area of the house that we are in. Because it costs so much more to use gas, and because when we turn on our central heat it distributes through the whole apartment, it makes more sense to use something smaller that we have set right by us. 

Space heaters can cost anywhere from $20 to $200. I think a really decent one can be had for $40, depending on what kind of room you are heating. 

Click here for more Saturday Handy Tips!

Friday, December 12, 2008

5 Worthy Causes to Donate To This Year

Tax season is coming, and if you're looking at making Tax Deductible donations, now is really a good time to do so. Also, the holiday season is really about giving. I try and donate something every Christmas, even if it is only $10. I just plan it in as an extra "present" that I have to buy. I know that I don't have a lot of money to spare, but I believe in doing a little good. 

With that said, here are a few of my top picks for places to donate money. Last year I donated to Doctors Without Borders and this year my money will go to UNHCR. 

An organization of professionals that bring medical aid to countries without it including vaccinations, disease prevention and cure, and emergency aid.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees is committed to helping refugees from war torn countries. Often, they will help wither relocate refugees or help them get back home. 

Medical aid and disaster relief. The Red Cross are a dedicated world wide organization.

This organization builds homes for impoverished people.

A charity dedicated to the conservation of Polar Bears and their habitat through research and education.

Do you have a charity that you support? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And Then There Was Christmas

I had been incredibly successful with my No Spend Days. So proud, was I that I was saddened when it had to end. It had gotten to the point where it wasn't as much about the money I was saving, as it was the challenge of continuing to not spend. True, I needed the money for other things and was working hard on saving up for a few expenses, but really the challenge was what had kept me going for so long. But, after 16 successful days of not spending a penny on anything other than gas, I had to cave in. 

I was a little sad as I hovered over the pay now button, I felt like I had come so far, but it had to be done. 

I know that in a couple of weeks, when my husband opens his Christmas gifts, it'll all have been worth it.

I'll be starting another No Spend Day round on January 1st and I am hoping that maybe you call can join me. Let's see how far into the new year we can get!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Contemplating Retirement Savings

I know that I am only 25 years old, but I am starting to think about saving for retirement. I think it's the appropriate time to start working on this, especially since I plan to "retire" early. 
I don't know much about retirement savings, and there is no plan through my job. 

I have a few options to consider. Firstly, I could get a Roth IRA. I've been thinking about this a lot, but my concern is that this is something that I would have to manage a little, and with the stock market dipping, it seems that a lot of IRA's have lost value. People seem to not be concerned with this as it will "go back up again", but what if the stock market crashes right before you plan to retire? What is that value disappears. I'm not a fan of investing in the stock market in general because to me, it feels like gambling. 

My next idea is to start a CD ladder and just start socking money away. I'd get a guaranteed rate of return and my money would be pretty safe. I don't get tax benefits, but it seems so much more stable. 

I can understand how people go the 401(k) route or other such programs if a company is matching the money that will be put in there, but I don't get that luxury. 

This is quite a conundrum for me and I really would like to have a plan in place for my 2009 Financial goals. So what do you think? What would you do if you were me? I welcome any and all advice!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Handy Tip : Keep Generic Gifts on Hand

Around this time of year especially, it's entirely possible that you will receive a Christmas present from someone who you didn't put on your list. It's a good idea to find some fairly generic gifts to have on hand at all times. Things that can work well are stuff like candles, home made preserves or pancake mix (which is what I did last year). 

Another person I know knits dishcloths year round and keeps a few on hand as gifts throughout the year. 

So be sure to pop a couple of generic things in a drawer for Christmas and maybe for the rest of the year too! It could be your saving grace in an awkward social situation!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's New at Distilled Rose Personal Finance

This is an update post to let you know of some changes!

I'm putting this blog on a regular posting schedule, since I'd like it to be a little less erratic. There should be new posts going up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the regular Saturday Handy Tip on Saturday's from here on out. I'll probably do a couple of extra posts here and there. 

I'm very interested in having guest authors come on here to share their work with readers. If you are interested, just use the contact form in the sidebar. 

I'm also taking questions for a question and answer section that I am trying to get off the ground. These can be about personal finance, or about me, or anything you like really. 

As always, the best way to get updates is to subscribe to my RSS Feed

On a side note, I'm on No Spend Day 12. It's now become a "how long can I go" game, which is proving quite fun. I recommend you try it!

Thanks for all of the support over the last few months. It means a lot to me!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Buying in Bulk : What Items are Best?

Image by Pygo

Buying items in bulk is great way to cut down on costs. Not only do you save money on the price per unit, but you are also saving money on trips to the grocery store as you'll need these items less. 

It's best to use somewhere like Sam's Club and Costco. If you don't have a card, ask around and see if someone has one you can borrow. If you know any small business owners, they are certainly good people to ask.

One of the primary concerns people seem to have with buying items in bulk is storing them. Be creative! Look for little unfilled nooks and crannies. Do you have a book shelf of paper backs with space behind them? Could that space hold toilet paper? Can you tuck items on a shelf in your garage? How about in your crawl space? Or even under your bed or your couch. 

The key when picking items to buy in bulk is to look for things with a long shelf life. Be sure to check expiration dates on everything. If you end up purchasing something and not using all of it, when the expiration date comes near shoot an email to your friends and family and ask if anyone needs 1lb of flour or so. Ask them to either donate for it or give them the actual price of the item. 
You can even consider splitting bulk items up and charging just below standard retail for a quantity of the item so you are making a little profit.

Here are some of the best items to buy in bulk:

Toilet Paper

I buy this in 36 roll packs and it lasts us a really really long time. I have these stored under the sink in our bathroom. 

Dishwasher Tabs

I use the tabs, not the powder because I like having a pre-measured amount of detergent. A big tub of 70 tabs takes up about as much room as a normal box of powder would. 

Laundry Detergent

We use eco-friendly detergent and always opt for the biggest size available. 

Trash Bags

I buy these in the industrial sizes... about 100 bags to a box.


My in-laws got a huge bulk bag of rice a while ago and gave us 5lb of it. We're still working our way through the bag.


I haven't yet found a good source for bulk flour, though I do tend to buy big bags. If you do a lot of making your own bread or baking, this is a good idea.

Pet Food

Pet food tends to have a long shelf life, so I buy big bags of food for the cat, as well as the multi-packs of wet food pouches. I choose the variety packs so that she doesn't get bored.


This is an often overlooked one, but if you eat cereal daily this can save you a ton of money.

Monday, December 1, 2008

November Net Worth Update

It's time for my regular Net Worth Update!

Here is how the breakdown looks for November. This was another strong month for me, with a 2.33% increase in Networth overall.

The Cash is my Savings, and Stocks is my Prosper balance. I am currently pulling out of Prosper. My savings are down a smidge because I had to go to the doctor briefly (all is well).

My progress chart is continuing to ascend.
My main goal for the end of 2008 was to get my Net Worth to -$28,000 and as you can see, I am just $37 short of that goal. So, barring any huge disaster, I should have that covered!

The breakdown looks like this:


Car Value - $2,480

Prosper Loans - $222 ($232)

Cash Savings - $385 ($394)


Student Loans - $2,3821

Credit Cards - $5,039 - AmEx $295, BoA $4744  ($5,547)

Scooter Loan - $2,266 ($2,445)

Net Worth

- $28,037 (-$28,707)

I didn't hit my goal of paying off my AmEx for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I accidentally paid my Scooter Loan payment twice. This took a good chunk off the principal and it's all going to the same cause. I am also missing two checks totaling $500 that were due this month which would have completely knocked out the card. Instead, I will be aiming again for December and trying to hit my 2008 goal of having my Prosper/Scooter loan down below $2,000.


I decided to combine my savings for some streamlining and just increasing my targets instead of having my medical and auto fund. I've just condensed these into one emergency fund with a target of $5,000. I am keeping my travel fund, though. I'm not sure what money will be put in there, but I really want to keep that savings account. As a result, both savings account have stayed about the same as last month. 

So I have two goals for December, to pay off my American Express card and to get my Prosper Loan down below $2,000. My other 2008 goal that has not yet been met was to have $1000 in my savings account. I think that it is very unlikely that I will meet this goal. I'm a bit disappointed, but if I can still hit all of the others, I won't be terribly upset. 

I am also on my eighth day of No Spend Days. I'm pretty stunned that I have made it this far and I plan to see how long I can go. I'm essentially trying to get back on track from overspending in my discretionary income account. I'd love to make it 11 more days, though I am not sure how realistic that is!

August Net Worth